A Comparative Study of E-learning Platform in Reading and Translating Course for Engineering Students

A Comparative Study of E-learning Platform in Reading and Translating Course for Engineering Students

   A Comparative Study of E-learning Platform in
       Reading and Translating Course for
              Engineering Students

                                                            Xue Shi
                               Luoyang Institute of Science and Technology, Luoyang, China

Abstract—Web-based learning environments are being more            enrolling. Therefore, we consider Moodle as an e-learning
widely used in higher education to support face to face            platform to support face to face teaching.
teaching activities. Universities in Europe, the United States,       In response to increasing demand among non-linguistic
and other developed countries extensively use e-learning           faculties for foreign language learning, a novel e-course in
platforms; however, this is still in the trial stage in Chinese    reading and translation for engineering students was de-
universities and educational institutions. Moodle has been         veloped. The aim of this study was to determine whether
considered as an interactive e-learning tool to motivate stu-      this new teaching method is suitable for third-year under-
dents and involve them in resolving both individual and
                                                                   graduate students and to compare attitudes and results of
collaborative tasks. In order to improve class attendance
                                                                   students who followed electronic study versus conven-
and homework assignments submission, an e-course was
                                                                   tional classroom study.
developed via Moodle and proved to be a positive teach-
ing/learning experience. Following this study, a series of                         II.       LITERATURE REVIEW
conclusions can be drawn concerning its benefits in terms of
stimulating students’ interest in homework tasks and in-              There are many reasons for the growth of the e-learning
creasing their frequency of interaction with teachers and          industry, both from the universities and students’ perspec-
among colleagues.                                                  tives. Generally speaking, the demand for distance learn-
                                                                   ing is increasing. The flexibility and availability of e-
Index Terms—e-learning,         e-course,    Moodle,    higher     learning can ensure further professional development be-
education                                                          yond the classroom. K. Werbach [2] pointed out that with
                                                                   the limited capacity of classrooms and limited budgets for
                     I.    INTRODUCTION                            building new facilities, e-learning was an ideal alternative
                                                                   to traditional teaching methods. D. Benta explained, from
   Technology plays an important role in many aspects of
                                                                   the perspective of students [1], how e-learning helped
daily life, and its importance for education is by no means
                                                                   them access the course materials as well as motivated
different. Over the last decade, the idea of applying Moo-
                                                                   them to collaborate with their colleagues in doing home-
dle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Envi-
ronment) in higher education has been increasingly adopt-
ed by universities and other academic institutions.                   Despite the above advantages, most Chinese universi-
                                                                   ties continue to employ only traditional teaching methods
   Moodle is a learning platform originally designed by
                                                                   with no other additional support. S.C. Wang [3] consid-
Martin Dougiamas (first version of Moodle was released
                                                                   ered the online courses as simply a copy of the traditional
on 20 August 2002). Moodle, as a robust open-source e-
                                                                   classroom teaching, as the teaching content was basically
learning platform, and was used and developed in the
                                                                   the same. L.Y. Zhu [4] proposed that teachers had less
years following its release by a global collaborative effort
                                                                   supervision of the learning process. J. Wei [5] and J. Guo
of the international community. Moodle is designed and
                                                                   [6] hold that Chinese teachers were more likely to have
continually improves to provide educators, administrators
                                                                   face-to-face communication with students, and students
and learners with a single robust, secure and integrated
                                                                   might better maintain self discipline in classrooms com-
system to create personalized learning environments [1].
                                                                   pared with online learning.
   The above mentioned e-learning platform was installed
within Luoyang Institute of Science and Technology in                                 III.     METHODOLOGY
recent years and it definitely contributes to making the
teaching and learning process between students and pro-            A. Analysis Of The E-Learning Platform
fessors more efficient and effective. However, its use has            Utilizing the benefits from using e-learning platforms to
not become compulsory so far and it is used as a learning          support traditional classroom teaching is a growing ten-
resource, as a means of teaching-learning as a supplement          dency in educational practices. One type of e-learning
conventional lectures. Since 2013, the web-based platform          platform, Moodle, enables the content management
Moodle has been used as a means of e-learning in writing           (courses, homework), ensures synchronized collaboration
courses for linguistic students. Because of its flexibility        (by chat or videoconference) as well as non-synchronized
and simplicity for navigation and creation of course mate-         collaboration (forum, message, blog.) and, it can be used
rial, a growing number of students have shown interest in          in managing the students that applied for the course [7-8].

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A Comparative Study of E-learning Platform in Reading and Translating Course for Engineering Students

                                   Figure 1. Multifunctional Interactive Environment via Moodle

   By means of this platform a multifunctional interactive         posed of lectures (10 weeks, held once a week), oral
environment between professors and students is provided,           presentation (5 weeks, after lectures) and a final examina-
as shown in Figure 1. Within this platform students learn          tion (in the last week). According to the bylaws of the
by direct, collaborative participation, where both students        Faculty of Material Science, a lecture on the same topic
and their professors can have synchronized or non-                 was held from Monday to Wednesday. Students who
synchronized access to the platform [9-10]. A series of            chose classroom seminars were divided into 3 subgroups
communication facilities, such as forums, chat rooms and           to follow the course on a certain day. E-seminar students
message systems are provided by this e-learning platform.          would follow the lectures on-line on the same topics as
By means of forum discussion, students can communicate             scheduled. Lectures focused on explaining engineering
with their peers or professors in a non-synchronized man-          related terms, reading comprehension and translation
ner at any time, as long as there is an internet connection.       skills. A team of five or six students was required to give
The forum discussions can be related to general topics of          an oral presentation, lasting up to 20 min, using Power
interest or can be focused on a specific topic, where either       Point, in front of other students (for classroom students) or
student users or professor users can initiate a discussion.        through videoconference (for e-learning platform stu-
Unlike the forum, the chat room system provides a syn-             dents) on a topic delegated by the teaching assistant in
chronized communication opportunity for all users on the           charge of that team. A 25 minute period of questions,
course platform at a given time, which leads to real-time          comments and discussion followed the presentation. In the
discussion [11-12]. Through the message system, users can          last week, all students attended the final exam which was
conduct private communication among themselves, and                a paper test of 100 points for passage reading and transla-
students can view their peers’ information or share files          tion.
with them.                                                            All topics for lectures, as shown in Table I, were print-
   This e-learning platform enables good communication             ed and distributed to students two weeks in advance of the
and socialization by means of chat or forum, both between          start of the course, during which time these 179 students
students and professors. Individual communication with the         could consider whether or not to take participate in the e-
professors can be achieved or topics can be discussed by           learning platform. Those who applied for the platform
all users that access the platform [13-14].                        learning format were exempt from attending classes when
                                                                   corresponding lectures were scheduled. Students had to
B. General Layout Of The Course                                    create their own username and password in order to access
  The course of Reading and Translating at the Faculty of          the e-learning platform. The results of students’ choices
Material Science, Luoyang Institute of Science and Tech-           and the basic information is shown in Table II, which
nology is compulsory for engineering students in the fifth         shows no apparent difference in the two groups, except
semester of undergraduate studies. Students, 179 in total,         that males more tend to prefer e-learning platform (54.5%
who passed Comprehensive English, held in the first four           of males (72/132) prefered to take e-seminars, while only
semesters, entered this course. The course lasts for 16            40.4% of females (19/47) did so).
weeks (from September to December, 2015) and is com-

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A Comparative Study of E-learning Platform in Reading and Translating Course for Engineering Students

                                                             TABLE I.
        Week 1            Introduction to Material Science and Engineering
        Week 2            Materials: Ferrous Alloys and Non-ferrous Alloys
        Week 3            Materials: Advanced Structural Ceramics and Functional Ceramics
        Week 4            Introduction to Welding Process
        Week 5            Welding Metallurgy
        Week 6            Metal Flow in Die Casting
        Week 7            Optimization of Properties in Aluminum Casting
        Week 8            Bulk-metal Forming and Sheet-metal Forming
        Week 9            Heat Treatment of Steel
        Week 10           Principle of Heat Treatment of Steel
        Week 11           Presentation topic: Classification of Materials
        Week 12           Presentation topic: Introduction of Polymer, Semiconductor or Composites
        Week 13           Presentation topic: Some new Developments in Welding
        Week 14           Presentation topic: Precision Casting Process
        Week 15           Presentation topic: Fundamental of Metal Forming

                                                             TABLE II.

                                                        Number                      Males                Females                GPA>80
Traditional classrooms                         88                           60                    28                    23.86% (21)
E-learning platform                            91                           72                    19                    25.27% (23)
Total                                          179                          132                   47                    -----

                                                                                     These findings prove that it is not a proper time for the
               IV.       RESULTS AND DISCUSSION                                   e-learning platform to completely replace traditional
C. Pre-Course Survey                                                              classroom teaching since not all students are ready for
                                                                                  that. At present, it is better to set a transitional period
   To further evaluate the motives for enrollment in each                         during which Moodle serves as a supporting teaching tool
situation, a short questionnaire was administered [15],                           for classroom activities.
related to several motives for enrollment and their initial
expectations. Students in both situations were required to                        D. Course Participation
answer this survey before they accessed the first lecture                            The class attendance subject is a very sensible one. The
topic. Each answer was rated on a Likert scale from 1 to                          current situation is that the higher the students’ grade, the
5, 1 denoting “strongly disagree” and 5 denoting “strong-                         lower the course participation. According to the faculty
ly agree” with a given statement. Scores of the pre-course                        bylaws, attendance is calculated positively determined by
survey for each situation are presented in from Table III                         grade. When Moodle was used, higher course participa-
to Table VI. Students considered the reason “To enjoy the                         tion was observed. From the total number of enrolled
flexibility of learning” as the strongest motive to partici-                      students, only 4% were absent, the remaining 96% at-
pate in e-learning platform.                                                      tended the online courses (Figure 2-a). In the case where
   The results of the pre-course survey are very optimis-                         the traditional classroom teaching was employed, only
tic. Students had high expectations of e-learning platform                        82% attended classes while 18% were absent (Figure 2-
study which could be concluded from the result that no                            b).
one chose “strongly disagree” to the statements. Students                            This was as expected. In the traditional way, students
hoped to reap the benefits provided by the e-learning plat-                       had to register with the faculty secretary and attend
form including access to an abundant amount of authentic                          courses using printed resources. When using the e-
materials, the hypertext structure, multimedia capabilities                       learning platform, students could log in via computers or
and online communication. Furthermore the easy accessi-                           mobile devices and download electronic resources.
bility and non-restricted time restraints of the net made it
more flexible and attractive.                                                        Comparing the two situations, some remarks can be
                                                                                  made. When the e-learning platform was used, it was
   The preference of traditional classroom students sug-                          more convenient for students to participate, as they found
gests students’ concerns about the e-learning platform                            it very intuitive and easy to use. They were stimulated not
include a lack of opportunities for in-depth and face-to-                         only to think independently but also to participate in co-
face interaction between and among teachers and stu-                              operation and discussion. There are many ways to en-
dents, uncertain online learning goals without teachers’                          courage course participation and using e-learning plat-
guidance and students’ deficiency of online learning                              form is an effective one.
skills. Moreover, they were accustomed to the teacher-led
classroom mode and were not confident in self-directed

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A Comparative Study of E-learning Platform in Reading and Translating Course for Engineering Students

                                                              TABLE III.

                                                                          1               2                3            4      5
 1. To have more face-to-face community                                   0              5%               6%           11%    78%
 2. To follow teachers’ instructions                                      0               0               7%           36%    57%
 3. To get immediate feedback                                            1%              8%              17%           32%    42%
 4. To maintain the status quo                                           8%             12%              31%           26%    23%
 5. To better self discipline while learning                             8%             18%              34%           23%    17%

                                                              TABLE IV.

                                                                          1               2                3            4      5
 1. To better learn the course material                                   0               0              32%           32%    36%
 2. To better bond with professors                                        0              2%              33%           31%    34%
3. To cultivate relationships with colleagues                             0               0              19%           25%    56%

                                                               TABLE V.

                                                                         1                2               3             4      5
  1. To better learn the course material                                 0              11%              24%           34%    31%
  2. To avoid physically coming to the class                             0                0              3%            20%    77%
  3. To enjoy the flexibility of learning                                0                0              7%            26%    67%
  4. To try a new mode of learning                                       0               4%              16%           40%    40%
  5. To finish the homework faster                                       0              15%              42%           22%    21%

                                                              TABLE VI.

                                                                         1                2               3             4      5
  1. To better learn the course material                                 0                0              29%           32%    39%
  2. To have fun while learning                                          0                0              15%           27%    58%
  3. To pick up something new                                            0                0              30%           31%    40%

                                  Figure 1. Course participation in traditional classroom versus e-learning platform

                                                                                 The reason behind this phenomenon is that students
E. Homework Submission                                                        were not allowed to access the next lecture topic if they
   The E-learning platform has proved useful in terms of                      did not finish the homework before the deadline. In this
homework tasks. A higher number of homework assign-                           way, students were stimulated to resolve homework on
ments were submitted using Moodle compared to the                             time. Further analysis of the server logs discovered that
traditional way of submission by writing on a paper and                       most of the performed and recorded tasks were home-
handing it in (Figure 3). The difference is very signifi-                     work-oriented tasks and as the deadline approached, there
cant; using the traditional way, only 78% of the total                        was a higher frequency and volume of platform usage and
amounts of homework assigned were actually submitted.                         homework submissions. These facts prove that homework
In contrast, when Moodle was used, 98% was recorded as                        completion and submission were improved and students’
submitted homework.                                                           interest in the course increased.

iJET ‒ Volume 11, Issue 4, 2016                                                                                                     123

                            Figure 2. Homework submission in traditional classroom versus e-learning platform

                                                                       satisfaction, impression and future expectations for the
F. Course Communication                                                course. Students in both situations had the same questions
   Another benefit of the e-learning platform is that the              and possible answers to the six statements and were also
virtual learning environment makes the students more                   rated on a Likert scale from 1 to 5 while the last question
active in class, especially for those who are shy in a tradi-          is open-ended. The positive attitudes to statements 4 and
tional classroom setting. Some students are inhibited from             5 highlight the difference.
asking questions in face-to-face classrooms, however,                     As seen in the results given in Table VIII, students
they readily ask questions or make comments online or in               were more satisfied overall with the e-learning platform.
the Discussion Forum.                                                  At the same time, they have many expectations for the
   Table VII records the numbers of questions asked by                 functions of the platform, such as:
students related to the course. A large gap can be                        • Automatic check for homework
observed between traditional class and e-learning class in
the number of questions asked, which suggests that using                  • More on-line tests
the e-learning platform played a significant role in                      • More friendly learning environment
facilitating student participation and overall course                     • Quick feedback
communication between and among students and                              Students of the traditional setting display a lower
teachers. As other authors have pointed out, better                    percentage of satisfaction. Their expectation for the
communication will contribute to group development and
fostering a sense of working as a team [1,9,10]. Through               course mainly includes:
synchronized discussions or non-synchronized com-                         • More interaction with teachers in classroom
munications, students express points of confusion or                      • Clear learning object and instructions from teachers
doubt and they are more task oriented with few or no                      • More active learning environment
interpersonal conflicts as distractions.                                  • Variety of teaching aids
G. Post-Course Survey
  At the end of the 15th week, before the final exam, the
post-course survey was conducted related to overall

                                                         TABLE VII.
                                               COMPARISON OF COURSE COMMUNICATION
                                       Questions asked during 1-10 weeks (lecture)      Questions asked during 11-15 weeks(presentation)
Traditional classroom                                        35                                                 97
E-learning platform                                          106                                                368

                                                         TABLE VIII.
                                                 COMPARISON OF POST-COURSE SURVEY
                               Item                                               Percentage of students with positive attitude
                                                                            Traditional classroom                E-learning platform
1. My reading and translating skills were improved                               62/88(70.4)                          66/91(72.5)
2. I had fun while learning                                                      45/88(51.1)                          80/91(87.9)
3. This mode of learning is much better than the other one                       37/88(42.0)                          70/91(76.9)
4. I would recommend this mode to other students                                 41/88(46.6)                          91/91(100.0)
5. I’d like other courses to adopt this mode                                     39/88(44.3)                          91/91(100.0)
6. I feel ready for the final examination                                        49/88(54.5)                          52/91(57.1)

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       05.373                                                                                               AUTHOR
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